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Lam Targets Historic Hat-Trick Of Home Interpro Wins

Lam Targets Historic Hat-Trick Of Home Interpro Wins

Connacht have little time to dust themselves off after their exit from the European Challenge Cup, with Ulster coming to Galway for a hugely important interprovincial clash in the GUINNESS PRO12 next Saturday (kick-off 2.40pm).

Both Connacht and Ulster have a massive amount to play for in the coming weeks, as the westerners try to hold onto their top six ranking and secure Champions Cup qualification, and the Ulstermen chase home advantage in the PRO12 play-offs.

Pat Lam’s men have already defeated Leinster (10-9) and Munster (24-16) at the Sportsground this term, and a first ever hat-trick of home interpro victories would give them a timely boost on the back of three recent defeats.

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Speaking after the Challenge Cup quarter-final loss to Gloucester, Lam said: “We gave it our all for this one against Gloucester but we came up short. We must park it now and move our attention back to the PRO12 where our destiny is still in our hands.

“We have Ulster coming to Galway in a few days’ time and it’s an exciting game considering we really need the win. We’ve beaten Leinster and Munster at home this season so it would also be really special to create a little bit of Connacht history with three interpro wins.

“There are only four games to go. So we’re trying to get as many guys back fit and ready to go for what are four big games – three of them at home at the Sportsground. We’ve only lost once at home in the PRO12 (this season) so we’ve got to have a really good week’s preparation and be ready for Saturday for a massive game in front of our home fans.”

With the Clan Stand, Main Stand, Enclosed and new Seated Stand all sold out for Connacht v Ulster, there are limited tickets available for behind the goals at the Bohermore and College Road end.

There are also only limited junior tickets available. Adult tickets, starting at €;25, are currently on sale from tickets.ie, from the Connacht Rugby office and Centra and SuperValu stores province-wide.

In positive injury news for Connacht, back rower Eoin McKeon has completed the return-to-play protocols for concussion and will be available for selection this week. Powerful centre Bundee Aki is also expected to be available for selection after returning from the ankle injury that has sidelined him recently.

Prop Ronan Loughney is back in the selection mix having recovered from the low-grade adductor strain that kept him out last week, but a number of Connacht players did pick up injuries in the bruising 14-7 defeat by Gloucester.

Winger Matt Healy suffered rib contusion during the game at Kingsholm. An X-ray post-match showed no fracture and the injury is not as bad as first thought. The 26-year-old will undergo a graduated return to training this week.

Meanwhile, versatile forward Andrew Browne was removed from the pitch just minutes into the second half after sustaining a low grade AC joint (shoulder) sprain. Following further review today, the Galway man is expected to resume training later in the week.

Young second row Michael Kearney was a late withdrawal before the game against Gloucester – he aggravated a toe injury during the warm-up. Following an MRI, and confirmed MTP joint sprain, the 23-year-old is now expected to be unavailable to play for up to six weeks.

Connacht have unfortunately had to confirm that young centre Conor Finn suffered an ACL tear to his knee during the recent round 18 derby clash with Munster. He will undergo surgery in the coming weeks and recovery time for the 22-year-old is likely to be six to seven months.

Former All Black Mils Muliaina, who started at full-back against the Cherry and Whites sustained a grade 2 adductor strain late on in the first half. The expected rehab time for this injury is two to three weeks.

Connacht Rugby can confirm that Muliaina was released on bail, without charge, on Saturday. South Wales Police are continuing their investigating into an alleged incident in Cardiff last month. 
Muliaina returned to Galway on Sunday having cooperated fully with police investigations. He denies any wrong doing and will meet with Connacht Rugby officials in the coming days to review the situation internally. As this remains a legal matter, Connacht Rugby can provide no further comment at this time.

Meanwhile, Lam said he was full of pride at the effort and second half comeback his team showed against Gloucester, adding: “One thing I never doubt with these guys is that they never give up and they keep going hard. We know in the first half we didn’t exit well, we let in two soft tries – bit of a lucky bounce of the ball for one of them.

“But we spoke at half-time about raising the intensity and being more ruthless with our execution. We missed some chances but to (score the penalty try and) be still fighting hard at the end to get into extra-time, I believe it’s a credit to the guys and their refusal to give up.

“We’ve a young group of guys who are looking to take this team forward and the experience of this sort of knockout game will hold them in good stead.”